National Labor Relations Board

After seven years of notable absence from deciding Beck cases, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the enforcing federal agency for the NLRA, has recently started to carry out the Supreme Court’s Beck decision in a series of cases outlined in the previous section. The Board has not gone as far as the federal courts in applying to private sector unions the same procedural requirements imposed on public employee unions because the Board does not view Beck rights as Constitutional in nature.

Nevertheless, the NLRB provides essential safeguards that preserve employee interests because the Board’s proceedings are fast, inexpensive, and the charging party is not required to hire an attorney. This offers many benefits to an individual employee who can ill afford the time and money to pursue a lawsuit against a union that disregards Beck rights. Unlike the courts, the NLRB can provide a labor forum that acts to balance the powerful resources available to the union against the individual employee. The Board typically employs only "make-whole" remedies that are designed to effectuate the policies of the NLRA. Reinstatement of a discharged worker and back pay are the most common examples of make-whole remedies used by the Board.

It remains to be seen if the Board will adopt broader protections in enforcing Beck rights. A lack of voluntary union compliance to Beck standards will promote employee unfair labor practice charges. Some unions presumably will continue to litigate the boundaries of what constitutes germane collective bargaining activities, attempting to keep chargeable versus nonchargeable expenses as broad as possible. As this occurs, the Board will be compelled to further refine union obligations to nonmembers.